This is Bad – Now Trump’s DOJ Wants Arpaio Conviction Erased

Although disgraced Arizona former sheriff Joe Arpaio was gifted a with a questionable and completely unwarranted pardon from the crook in the White House, it still isn’t enough to satisfy any of the racists in Trump’s administration. The sad truth is that Trump pardoning Arpaio prematurely signaled that the rule of law took another blow from dirty Don. Now Trump’s racist attorney general is wading in to completely erase Arpaio’s conviction in a blow to a federal Judge, the rule of law and the judicial system.

It was announced yesterday (Monday) that since Trump’s good friend Joe Arpaio demands his conviction on criminal contempt of court be dismissed, Trump’s Justice Department duly filed an amicus brief telling a federal Judge to “give Sheriff Joe” what he wants. Obviously the DOJ didn’t put it in quite those words, but they did, however, reiterate Arpaio’s claim that a pardon from Trump means he was never found guilty and never convicted; Arpaio wants his name cleared of any wrongdoing and Trump’s DOJ agrees. This is a really bad sign going forward.

Shortly after Trump pardoned Arpaio, the former sheriff told the federal Judge he wants the conviction “tossed” as if nothing ever happened and he wasn’t in contempt of court for over five years. Trump’s DOJ filed an amicus brief with the federal court agreeing with Arpaio that he should be declared innocent.

The disgraced Arpaio’s lawyers have argued that even though he will never face justice or be sentenced, the poor former sheriff  has no legal path to be declared innocent. According to Arpaio, that questionable pardon renders his case “resolved” in the eyes of the law, so his conviction must be thrown out and his “good name” cleared of any wrongdoing. He says that presidential pardon “nullifies the guilty verdict in the case.

Federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton canceled an October 5th sentencing date after the ill-advised pardon and set an October 4th date for both prosecutors and defense lawyers to file briefs on why she should, or should not, do what Arpaio demands and pretend he never broke the law.

Although the DOJ has no business wading into the case, they are acutely interested in seeing that Arpaio gets his criminal record wiped clean; it is a slap in the face to a Federal Judge from Trump’s Department of Justice. The DOJ brief states:

A pardon issued before entry of final judgment moots a criminal case because the defendant will face no consequences that result from the guilty verdict. Accordingly, the [Trump] government agrees [with Arpaio] that the Court should vacate all orders and dismiss the case as moot.”

It is as if nothing ever happened. And as if Arpaio’s flagrant flouting the law, and disregarding the constitutionality of a federal court’s authority, is now legal in Trump’s America; but only if the convicted criminal is an anti-immigrant racist and close Trump ally and supporter.

That pardon has elicited legal challenges and there should be a robust stand against Trump’s actions; if for no other reason than Trump failed to follow his own Department of Justice’s protocol and rules for granting a “presidential pardon.” Of course those rules and procedures are not the grounds an activist group, Protect Democracy, is claiming to “thwart Trump’s violations of legal norms,” but it is a path they may want to investigate.

The group of lawyers sent a letter to Raymond N. Hulser and John Dixon Keller of the Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division of the Justice Department, arguing that the pardon goes beyond constitutional limits. In their letter to the DOJ, the Protect Democracy lawyers claim Trump cannot “obviate the court’s powers to enforce its orders when the constitutional rights of others are at stake.” They added:

The president [Trump] can’t use the pardon power to immunize lawless officials from consequences for violating people’s constitutional rights. After repeatedly belittling and undermining judges verbally and on Twitter, now President Trump is escalating his attack on the courts into concrete actions. His pardon and celebration of Joe Arpaio for ignoring a [federal] judicial order is a threat to our democracy and every citizen’s rights, and should not be allowed to stand.”

There is another little matter that should be addressed and it is Trump’s blatant disregard for the long-established process of gaining a presidential pardon; Trump violated each and every one of them.

Just a sampling of the procedures Trump ignored was the requirement that the convicted party files a petition with the Office of the Pardon Attorney at the Department of Justice. According to the DOJ website, Arpaio is required to complete a pardon petition that “must be completed fully and accurately and notarized in order to be considered.” That process, like the U.S. Constitution means nothing to Trump.

The DOJ instructs all petitioners that a presidential pardon:

Is ordinarily a sign of forgiveness and is granted in recognition of the applicant’s acceptance of responsibility for the crime and established good conduct for a significant period of time after conviction or release from confinement. A pardon is not a sign of vindication and does not connote or establish innocence. For that reason, when considering the merits of a pardon petition, pardon officials take into account the petitioner’s acceptance of responsibility, remorse, and atonement for the offense. (Author bold)

Obviously, Arpaio continues claiming, like his racist hero Trump, that he did nothing wrong because he is “above the law” and was “just doing his job” in violating a federal court order for over five years. And he just said yesterday it was a “job” he would never stop doing or apologize for. In fact, he made the same claim in 2011 when the Court ordered him to cease and desist and he has reiterated that claim without pause as he continued violating the federal court’s order.  In fact, in the court’s guilty finding in July the Judge noted that:

The Defendant broadcast to the world and to his subordinates that he would and they should continue ‘what he had always been doing.’”

Arpaio, like Trump, believes he is exempt from following court orders like every other American citizen has to on pain of a conviction for “criminal contempt of court;” which is what Arpaio was found guilty of.

It is also noteworthy that Arpaio never “accepted responsibility for the crime” he certainly committed or established good conduct for a significant period of time “after conviction.” Because in violating the DOJ’s own rules, Trump just pardoned Arpaio barely three weeks after he was found guilty and convicted of a federal crime. Trump was so eager to sate his alt-right Nazis lust for “justice” for a fellow racist, that he didn’t wait for Arpaio to be sentenced and now he wants the conviction and guilty finding erased; to clear “former” sheriff Joe’s good name.

There are rumors that Arpaio is going to challenge one of Trump’s Republican “enemies,” Jeff Flake, for his Arizona Senate seat and he needs his criminal record wiped clean. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Trump is using the federal government agency to aid his racist ally’s electoral chances; Trump’s DOJ stepping in to pressure a federal court fits with any number of dirty tricks Trump will use to game the system.

It was bad enough that Trump pardoned Arpaio without going through the proper pardon process, but the DOJ butting in to pressure a federal Judge portends the “official” end of the rule of law in America.

It is not a stretch to imagine that Trump will issue a blanket pardon for all of his co-conspirators even before they face charges, particularly after he announced publicly that he “has complete pardon power;” a signal to his corrupt players that no matter what crimes they committed, they will never face justice. This should concern every American because there is every indication that no-one in Trump’s corrupt administration will ever face justice; including the dirty crook in the Oval Office.

Lurching Toward the First Constitutional Crisis Since the Civil War

 

A couple of days ago, Bill Moyers shared an email from “an old friend” of his and although it is likely too close to reality for comfort, it does accurately portray part of Trump’s motivation in pardoning the self-styled fascist Joe Arpaio. The quoted email was an introduction to an article suggesting that Trump was creating aconstitutional crisis;a term many Americans have heard far too many times since Trump’s sparsely attended inauguration. For perspective, one normally only hears the term “constitutional crisis”  in a university-level history class studying the Civil War.

The email Mr. Moyers shared was from “one of the country’s top trial lawyers.” It said, in part:

“I have underestimated Trump. He knows what is coming, including a variety of criminal charges and other impeachable offenses. He is not just arousing his base to anger, but to arms, some of them. There is no other way to explain the transgender ban, the Arpaio pardon, his Charlottesville remarks…”

Now everything one of the nation’s “top trial lawyers” wrote is true, and this author fundamentally said the same things in a couple of overly-wordy columns here and here. As Trump’s popularity, or lack thereof,  continues declining, he is going to get increasingly proactive and incite his white evangelical fascists to his defense; they are all he has left.

But there is another danger in Arpaio’s pardon and it does represent a constitutional crisis without a remedy because Republicans are too terrified of crossing Trump to put him out of the White House and out of the nation’s misery.

As the author of a book on France under fascism, Charles Kaiser asserted, what Americans are experiencing today is “exactly what incipient fascism looks like.” Most Americans comprehend that Trump’s unrelenting assault on the press, inflaming Nazis and heartening racists, and now pardoning an acknowledged serial civil rights abuser and brazen racist are indeed “acts of a man who is blatantly defying his sacred pledge to uphold the Constitution of the United States.” But those Americans likely don’t comprehend that Trump’s defiance of the Constitution portends the naked fascism lurking on the horizon.

Arpaio’s pardon is wrong on myriad levels; only racists, evangelicals, most Republicans, and Trump believe otherwise.  But it was deliberately “wrong” to send a very clear message that Trump has no regard for, and no intent to ever adhere to, the rule of law or the U.S. Constitution. It was bad enough when it was Arpaio violating the rule of law and the Constitution with impunity, but when it is the monster in the White House it is a constitutional crisis that Republicans show no willingness to thwart.

Look, Trump didn’t even wait for Arpaio to be sentenced, or go through the normal Justice Department channels necessary to petition for a presidential pardon; Trump just said Arpaio was treated “very unfairly” and was only punished for “doing his job.” It is tantamount to saying that refusing to adhere to a constitutional federal court order is legal if it comports with Trump law.

Of course the pardon is a signal to every racist law enforcement officer, and armed white supremacist vigilante, that rounding up innocents and abusing them is legal, and just their job. But more than that it is a message to America that Donald J. Trump is now the law of the land; it is fascism and the act of a tyrannical dictator that Republicans will not regulate. As Charles Kaiser rightly asserted, Trump pardoning Arpaio “is the latest and gravest step he has taken in his continuing efforts to undermine the rule of law.”

Mr. Kaiser is not the first legal expert to explain that although Trump reveled in inciting his racist supporters, “it is not the main reason for this heinous act.”  Kaiser and several other legal authorities expect that Trump is signaling to all of his current and former underlings and family members that they too are under no obligation to adhere to the law, or the Constitution, or a summons from Special Counsel Robert Mueller III. If they are held in contempt by Mr. Mueller or a congressional committee investigating Trump’s ties to Russia for not cooperating, they can ignore any risk or threat of jail time becauseTrump will pardon them.

America has been in a constitutional crisis since the day Trump was inaugurated and it is down to one simple fact; he was always intent on using the authority of the Oval Office solely to benefit himself. Whether it is profiting by keeping his “vast business empire” or keeping his friends out of jail, Trump has abused the federal government office he has no right holding.

By giving Arpaio a pardon, Trump showed Americans, Congress and the Judiciary that he will use his authority to keep a political ally, former underling, mafia friend, or family member out of jail no matter the severity of their crimes. What Trump accomplished in pardoning an evil monster was “obliterating any lines that remain between the chief executive [Branch] and an independent system of justice.

Trump is now the system of justice according to his executive authority and Republicans are complicit for accepting this atrocity as life in Trump’s America. Trump will certainly pursue neutering the legislative branch when the opportunity presents itself to consolidate all federal government power in his tiny little hands; it is what fascist dictators do as a matter of course.

In pardoning Arpaio, Trump incited his racist supporters to his defense, legalized civil rights abuses and detainees’ murders, and created a “class of citizens who are above the law;” including all of his administration’s cronies and particularly himself. It is what any semi-intelligent human being would call a fascist dictatorship. Americans will call it the first honest-to-dog “constitutional crisis” since the Civil War.